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(Originally Published in Pearl Magazine)
The world’s most famous ventriloquist David Strassman returns to Australia with his brand new show Careful What You Wish For, which promises plenty of laughs and jaw-dropping theatrics. I spoke to him about his neurotic puppets, his controversial humour, and filming the new show’s DVD in Frankston.
PEARL: You’re performing in Frankston on your upcoming tour. Have you been there before?
I sure have! In fact, I’m filming this show’s DVD in Frankston- that’s how damn good the show is down there. When I’m in Frankston, I’ll hang shit on Geelong. But when in Geelong, I’ll probably hang shit on Frankston.
PEARL: Why do you think Australian audiences are still coming to your show after 22 years?
I always come back with a completely new show. It’s a full-on production with incredible sets, lights, robotics, special effects, music and visuals.
PEARL: What sort of innovative features can we look forward to seeing in these shows?
This show is mostly traditional hand-up-the-bum ventriloquism. People want to see the artistry, the magic. There’s one routine where I do six different voices in rapid succession without moving my lips. But I’m also introducing brand new wireless technology, where I operate Chuck Wood with a hand-held device. His voice and movements are live, but he’s sitting five feet away. It revolutionises ventriloquism.
PEARL: Does the audience gasp when he moves unaided?
Yeah from the first moment he starts moving, it’s a definitely a holy shit moment.
PEARL: Do you see your characters as a way of making fun of the twisted human condition?
Definitely. Every day, I am shocked by the dichotomies in society. I have to praise you Aussies, you don’t really drink and drive. In America people do it all the time, it’s just stupid. And I’m able, with my puppets, to have biting social commentary; which is hopefully funny but true.
PEARL: Do you ever perform your voices in a public place to mess with people’s minds?
Rarely. But I can do a mean police siren if you’re driving home after having a drink! And I can do crickets in a lift; I might do that once in a while.
PEARL: What’s the weirdest thing that has happened at an Australian show?
I was on stage with Ted E. Bare in Geelong, and suddenly the audience gasped in the middle of a routine. It sounded like some massive lighting beam was swinging down and was gonna kill me. I look around and saw that his leg had fallen completely off and landed on stage (laughs). So I had to do this little routine revolving around his leg being gone.
PEARL: So you covered for that spontaneous amputation well?
That’s the beauty of the show; it morphs with every single performance. Two are never alike.
PEARL: Are you ever shocked by the irreverence of your material?
Nothing really shocks me. There’s a fine line between being Rodney Rood and being clever. I hope my show is clever in regards to anything profane. It’s not for the Wiggles crowd- the characters swear, there are some adult themes, I take digs at society. Chuck tells jokes about priests. But I never cross the line; I’m not gonna make amputee jokes about the Boston Marathon. Chuck the naughty boy, or Grandpa Fred who is completely senile, they can say the things we all wish we could say.
PEARL: Your characters have developed fully-fledged humanistic personalities. Have you grown to despise any of them?
(Laughs) Well they’re not real, how can I despise anything that doesn’t exist! What fascinates me is how the characters have grown, and have become more real to me, the actor relating to them; and the audience watching them. Their conflicts, neuroses, aspirations have all grown over the years. It’s really a trip that I’m a grown man standing on stage, playing with dolls for a living.
Strassman is playing two shows at the Frankston Arts Centre on Sunday 26 May. Too book, call 03 9784-1060, or head to http://chuckwood.com/ for show times and more information.